One for the purists: Steven Scragg looks back fondly on Euro ’88 in new book

Football and fashion blended perfectly in memorable Euro finals recounted in a new book reviewed by Eric Brown


Journalists can be a cynical lot, eager to minimise events they witness and record.

However, that was certainly not the case in Euro 88 when a golden moment brought even the “seen it all before” merchants leaping from their press box seats with gasps of surprise and yells of admiration.

That moment occurred in the final of Euro 88 between The Netherlands and the Soviet Union. A long, looping cross from Arnold Muhren seemed to be drifting too far beyond the far post when an orange blur appeared and Marco van Basten blasted in a ferocious volley from an angle any other player would have considered impossible.

After a short delay as the spectacle registered in numbed minds, fans and journalists leapt from their seats. You don’t experience many moments like that.

Yet we might have anticipated seeing something special in the final of a special tournament.

Holders France may have failed to qualify but these finals were no less memorable for their absence. In 16 days of hypnotic football, not a single red card was brandished, there were no penalty shoot-outs and no extra time was required. There was not a single goalless draw.

None of that mattered to France who became the first Euro champions unable to qualify to defend their title. The loss of Michel Platini, who retired halfway through the qualifiers, plus Alain Giresse and Dominic Rocheteau proved insurmountable.

So Netherlands stepped into the void to capture their first international trophy with van Basten, who blasted a hat-trick against England, Ruud Gullit, Muhren, Frank Rijkaard, Ronald Koeman and the rest producing an irresistible brand of football.

Also on a rich cast list was Lothar Matthaus, Jurgen Klinsmann, Rudi Voller, Gianluca Vialli, Roberto Mancini, Michael Laudrup, Paolo Maldini, Peter Shilton, Gary Lineker and Bryan Robson among others.

Apart from the dreamy football, it was a sartorial tournament. West Germany won the fashion award with their highly original and eye-catching shirt design incorporating a white shirt with red, black and yellow sash extending across the chest and onto upper arms.

The Netherlands wore shirts of orange diamonds and the Soviets a neat white outfit with red trim. Adidas designers must have worked overtime.

Even Ireland’s simple emerald green had its admirers. All this colour left England’s traditional white shirts and black shorts looking rather drab, much like Bobby Robson’s team who suffered three defeats for the first time in tournament finals.

Steven Scragg has captured all the drama of a finals known as the football purists’ European Championship in a new book.

It cannot avoid mention of the hooliganism that followed England around Germany and debates the role of Dutch and German fans in horrific scenes which marred an otherwise classic tournament climaxed by THAT goal.

Euro 88 – The Football Purists’ European Championship’ by Steven Scragg is published by Pitch Publishing, price £18.99.

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